May 2024: Editorial

Mission Territory     

Like a number of priests in parishes at this time of year, I sometimes found myself frustrated following the annual First Penance, First Holy Communion and Confirmation ceremonies at what amounted to the virtual disappearance of the children and families in the weeks and months that followed who, initially at least, were actively and even enthusiastically involved. How could those who had been so deeply engaged in the preparations and celebrations of these joyous sacramental occasions suddenly and painlessly decouple themselves from the regular gatherings of the parish community?

In this month’s Intercom Bishop Paul Dempsey in reflecting upon his visit to and experiences with the Church in Kenya poses a number of similarly important questions for the Church in Ireland. He reflects: ‘Despite all our efforts through education, sacramental programmes, celebration of the sacraments, and significant moments of engagement such as funerals, serious questions remain. What are we trying to achieve? Who is Jesus for people today? What are the implications of being baptised? What is at the heart of our mission?’

He concludes that it is now necessary to get back to basics; to identify and call upon people to the largely unexplored ministry of catechist, to be with the people and share the story of Jesus in a similar manner to the Irish missionaries when they headed abroad to bring the Gospel message, to relegate theories and strategies and to accept the Spirit’s invitation to rediscover the riches of our faith and share it.

Perhaps above all it is time to accept that Ireland truly is mission territory once more and requires all of our Easter joy and Spirit-filled energy to rediscover what it means to be Church.

Paul Clayton-Lea 

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